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Vague instructions regarding trusts may complicate litigation

The process of estate planning can be confusing, but it is certainly no worse than the difficulties faced in probate and trust litigation. If a will or trust document is not clear or executed properly, possible inheritors and benefactors may not know to what they are entitled.

This experience is playing out after the death of a prominent financier. After debts are paid, the estate's value seems to revert to a trust. The disposition of the trust and the assets it will contain, however, are unclear.

"The time to do your will is not two days before you die," said an attorney with experience in estate planning. "You'll have higher odds of getting something wrong if you rush the process."

One thing to consider is any past and present debts owed by the person writing a will or creating a trust. Creditors often go first when it comes to probate, as courts have an interest in preventing future claims against an estate, especially after executors have paid out bequests.

Trusts can offer some security when it comes to making sure properties go to the intended parties, but they can also be revoked during a creator's lifetime. Creditors may even seize the assets of some trusts if they are exposed by the language creating them.

An attorney can usually help with the details of creating trusts or pursuing litigation regarding them. Legal representation may add critical peace of mind to the process of planning for properties and assets to be passed on during life or after death for future use by the intended benefactors.

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